TIOPS DAILY FIVE
*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*
1. Not that other rival GM’s are buying it at this point (that the Penguins won’t entertain Evgeni Malkin trade ideas), and the Penguins should be in listening mode at least, but some executives around the league believe David Morehouse took the right steps less than a day after the Penguins were eliminated in saying Evgeni Malkin won’t be traded. “The right thing was to quiet the speculation [for now],” one NHL exec told Inside Pittsburgh Sports.
This executive mentioned even if the Penguins end up entertaining trade offers, publicly the best stance will be to deny them even up to the day were they to trade Malkin.
“The worst thing Pittsburgh can do is have a San Jose situation on their hands.”
I’d argue, maybe it’s time to take the kid gloves off with the core players and start striking some fear into players like Malkin. Put their names out there to make things uncomfortable for once.
One thing getting portrayed with the Lightning’s success is that because Steve Stamkos has just one goal in nine playoffs, it makes it okay that the Penguins stars keep coming up empty in the playoffs.
Malkin by the way was pointless in Russia’s 4-2 loss to Team USA today in a surprising win for the Americans.
2. The Malkin trade scenarios have been in full steam from the Canadian media and don’t look for them to go away. Most of them are pretty bad. Last week Sportsnet’s Mike Johnston listed six trade destinations and trade bait for each team in a Malkin deal.
1. Blues – Jaden Schwartz, T.J. Oshie, David Backes, Patrik Berglund, Alexander Steen, Jay Bouwmeester, Robby Fabbri, Dmitrij Jaskin, Ivan Barbashev, Petteri Lindbohm.
2. Predators – Roman Josi, Seth Jones, Ryan Ellis, Kevin Fiala, Colton Sissons, Craig Smith, Colin Wilson
3. Sharks – Joe Thornton, Tomas Hertl, Matthew Nieto, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Mirco Mueller
4. Flames – Sam Bennett, T.J. Brodie, Dennis Wideman, Joe Colborne, Tyler Wotherspoon, Mikael Backlund
5. Canucks – Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Jake Virtanen, Brendan Gaunce, Nicklas Jensen, Jared McCann, Sven Baertschi, Hunter Shinkaruk
6. Panthers – Nick Bjugstad, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck, Dmitry Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson, Michael Matheson
The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson also joined the fray over the weekend.
[Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford should call up St. Louis Blues counterpart Doug Armstrong, who may be looking to shake things up with his core, and ask about T.J. Oshie, David Backes and draft picks for Malkin. Backes would be the Ryan Kesler-type second-line centre with Oshie on his wing and Patric Hornqvist could still play with Sidney Crosby on the first line. And the Penguins badly need draft picks after giving way too many away in their desire to keep current and play for the Stanley Cup now, acquiring the likes of Jarome Iginla and Marian Hossa in their failed recent runs. Malkin, meanwhile, could play with Vladimir Tarasenko in St. Louis. Or with a weakened, older blue-line and the uncertain health of one of the game’s best puck-movers Kris Letang, Rutherford should call up Nashville Predators GM David Poile and offer No. 1 centre Malkin straight up for No. 1 defenceman Shea Weber with the dollars just about the same. Malkin has seven years left at $66.5 million and Weber eight years at $65 million. Malkin could play with his old Pittsburgh buddy James Neal in Nashville and Weber could mentor some of the young defencemen like Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot in Pittsburgh. The Preds would still have Roman Josi, Seth Jones, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis as their top four on the back-end. The Leafs need a first-line centre, too. Would they go Malkin for Phil Kessel and his $8 million salary and Tyler Bozak? Kessel could play with Crosby.]
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, St Louis and Nashville are teams many executives point to as ideal situations due to their trade pieces and a belief that Malkin would be interested in going to a market like those two cities. A Weber for Malkin swap is a bad one though.
For any Malkin trade to be worth it for the Penguins, it would have to bring back an impact player with a much lesser cap hit and at least two to three more NHL contributors. That’s why David Backes is going to be connected to Malkin all summer. It makes sense from both teams needing a shakeup and getting a different type of center. For the Penguins wanting to become a more defensive minded team, Backes is a perfect fit with his size, strength and two-way play. However, he’s entering the final year of his deal and is 31 years old. Plays a rugged style, likely to wear down in the next couple years.
Of the multiple trade ideas from above, Malkin would never waive his NTC to play in a Canadian city like Calgary, Vancouver, or Toronto. You can throw them out.
Other than St. Louis and Nashville — Florida is the only other spot (of those mentioned above) that would be a realistic trade situation that the player would waive. From the Penguins end, if Alexsander Barkov isn’t in the discussion, then there’s nothing of interest from Florida. From the Panthers end, it would be a pretty big long shot that they’d put Barkov in a package for Malkin and why would they.
3. Some have wondered would the Penguins actually say no to Mike Babcock if his camp reached out to them and said he wanted to coach the Penguins? We’ll never know because that scenario won’t be happening. Mike Babcock loves Sidney Crosby but what’s very important to him is the people he’d be working with above him. David Morehouse and Jim Rutherford are not “his type of guys,” one NHL source said.
4. Alexander Ovechkin is on another level right now and there’s no question he’s re-emerged as the most dominant player in hockey. As hard as Ovechkin plays and even reckless at times, it’s amazing how healthy he’s stayed through his career.
There’s been lots of talk of how Barry Trotz has made Ovechkin a more complete player and that’s been true, yet, it’s had no impact on taking away his offensive abilities with another 50 goal season.
In Pittsburgh, some believe increased defensive responsibilities for Sidney Crosby hindered his offensive ability this season.
5. Should the Pirates be reaching the panic meter with Josh Harrison? After an 0-7 day vs the Cardinals, he now has a line of .188/.220/.313 in 96 at-bats to go with 18 strikeouts to just 2 walks. Internally the Pirates feel Harrison is dealing with some bad luck right now and he’s still getting hard contact but isn’t pulling balls as much as last season. In 2014 Harrison made soft contact on just 14% of batted balls, this season he’s still below 20%, at 19%, according to Fan graphs. I’d give Harrison another month before his struggles become a huge concern but if this trend continues and Jung Ho Kang continues to swing the bat well, the Pirates are going to have to get Kang more involved at third and shortstop.